Religious Observances

 

 

 

Mantra-Japa Japa (repetition of the name of God) is considered to be one of the easiest and most effective means of attaining spiritual illumination. Lord Krishna identifies himself with it and calls it a yajna or sacrifice. While performing Japa, not only the significance is to be known but its spiritual meaning also must be deeply contemplated.

The Mantra or divine names must be received in a ceremonial way from a competent spiritual guru. This is ceremony is known as Mantra Diksha or initiation. The repetition of the mantra done as per the instructions of the guru can give any desired result.

 

The Japa of a Mantra can be practiced in three different ways –

  • Vacika or Vaikhari – loud uttering. (Generally, the Ishta mantra obtained from a guru at the time of Diksha should not be uttered loudly in the presence of others). 
  • Upamsu – inaudible uttering or whispering 
  • Manasika – mental repetition

 

Before beginning Japa of a mantra, the disciple is advised to remember gratefully the Rishi (the original sage to whom the mantra was revealed), the chandas (the meter) and the Devata (the deity). This must be followed by nyasas (ceremonial purification of the hands and the limbs) and the dhyanasloka (a verse that describes the form of the deity). After the Japa is over, there must be Japasamarpana (offering the fruits of the Japa to the deity itself).

 

Japa must be practiced, keeping the count, either on the fingers or with a Japamala (a rosary). Hindu scriptural works prescribe many rules for its preparation and use.

 

The beads can be from rudraksa (for Sakti and Siva mantra), dried sticks of tulasi plant (for Vishnu, Krishna, Rama Mantras) dried wood of Bilva, gold, certain precious stones, beads of bhasma or dried holy ash. For stringing the beads, cotton or silk thread, wire of copper or silver are used.

 

The number of beads should be 32, 54, 64 or 108, or 54.

 

Japamalas made of different materials are prescribed for different Mantras. The rudraksa beads are used by the Saivas and Saktas who repeat mantras connected with Siva or Devi. The Vaishnavaites use the Tulasi mala. One should not wear the Japamala on the body.

 

Generally, one bead will be extra in a mala and that will be strung separately so as to stand like a crown. This is called ‘meru’. While counting, this meru should not be crossed. And, for counting on the mala, the thumb should be used, supporting the mala on the middle finger. During the process of counting, the mala should not touch any parts of the body below the navel.

 

The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad makes a special mention that one who wears the rudrakshas must avoid eating meat, onion, garlic and avoid drinking liquor.

 

Mantra is not a simple prayer but actually the form of the God. In the Yogic tradition the mantras are regarded as the special self-manifestations of the Supreme Power and every letter of every mantra is presided over by a Sakti. The repetition of the Divine Name with every breath is the essence of Yogic mantra-yoga.

 

Of all kinds of prayers in the Hindu scriptures, none are so attractive and impressive as the mantras or prayers in the Vedas. They have a direct appeal to the heart. What is the reason for it? These prayers are not mere compositions or writings of any sages. When the sages were meditating, these prayers appeared before their mind’s eyes in glowing golden letters. So these prayers are God-given. Proper utterance of these mantras brings whatever result one asks for.

 

Om Tat Savitur verenyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat. Om

Om. We meditate upon the adorable effulgence of the glowing Sun. May He illumine our intellect.

 

The particular forms of the deities and their mantras (mystical formulae) to be used in meditation have been handed over to us by a galaxy of saints and seers. They have been well-tested over the centuries. They are very much in vogue even today.


For more reading: The Mantra: Om: Word And Wisdom